The American Chemistry Council is saying and doing all the right things in its new public education campaign focused on California.
The Arlington, Va.-based trade group is spending $2.5 million to promote recycling and raise public awareness of litter problems.
The group's message is simple and powerful: “Plastics. Too valuable to waste. Recycle.”
Steve Russell, managing director of ACC's plastics division, knows how serious this issue has become. The environment is a top concern among Californians, and the plastics industry has suffered as a result, with a growing number of bans and taxes on plastic bags and polystyrene food-service products.
In a recent interview with Mike Verespej, our Washington-based staff reporter, Russell emphasized that this is the first phase of ACC's efforts: “This is just the beginning of a sustainable, multiyear effort in California,” he said, adding that ACC intends to replicate the project in other cities and states where it is needed and where ACC can form similar partnerships.
Plastics suppliers and converters can make a case that their products are at least as environmentally friendly as alternative products, except for when the alternative is no product at all. But a key part of their argument — that plastic products are recyclable — is weak and ineffective as long as the plastics aren't actually getting recycled.
That's where ACC is stepping in. Its campaign will include billboards, bus and radio ads reminding people that plastics can be recycled. ACC also is funding the purchase of recycling bins at state parks, so plastic products don't end up as litter and, ultimately, marine debris — a big problem in California, and one that is quickly becoming a front-burner issue elsewhere, too.
Will ACC's efforts help? We have no doubt that they will. ACC and its predecessor organizations, the American Plastic Council and the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, have a good track record of creating effective, image-building advertising. And the big plus is that with this project, there are actions behind the words.
It's also encouraging to see ACC teaming up with other groups that are active in the marine debris issue. We hope there's room for plastics processors to get involved, too, and perhaps even some other plastics trade associations.
The public needs to be reminded that plastics are recyclable. And Californians need to be told, repeatedly, that they are largely to blame for the marine debris problem. Plastic doesn't jump out of your car window to become litter — irresponsible people toss it there.
If this project doesn't work miracles, then more legislative mandates, bans and taxes are in the plastics industry's future in California — and, without a doubt, that trend will spread to other states, too.